As is customary for most NFL teams when their signings in free agency become official, Alejandro Villanueva was made available to the media Wednesday.
The veteran left tackle’s comments might raise some eyebrows with the fans and players of his former team.
Villanueva joined the Baltimore Ravens for a reported two-year contract worth as much as $14 million after he’d spent his first six accrued NFL seasons with the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. At one point while speaking to Baltimore media via video conference Wednesday, Villanueva acknowledged that facing the Steelers twice a season was a motivating factor in joining Baltimore.
The Steelers were, at best, lukewarm at the idea of bringing the 32-year-old back after he’d started each of the past 90 regular-season games for them at left tackle.
“It wasn’t really a tough decision,” Villanueva told reporters of signing with the Ravens. “Everybody from top bottom was pretty awesome.”
Part of the Steelers’ rationale in letting Villanueva go was that the team’s run-blocking had slipped badly in recent years. There is arguably no team in the NFL more run-heavy than the Ravens, who apparently had no such worries about adding Villanueva to their starting offensive line.
Villanueva complimented the skillset of Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson, the former NFL MVP whom he’s now tasked to block for.
Alejandro Villanueva said it’s better for linemen to play for a run-first team like the Ravens.
“I’m assuming it’s not as much fun for the receivers because they’re not getting all of the catches, they’re making the Tik Toks and and they’re having fun on their social media.”
— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) May 5, 2021
It was when Villanueva further expanded on playing for a run-heavy team that he might have said something that will ruffle feathers back in Pittsburgh.
“I’m assuming it’s not as much fun for the receivers,” he said, “because they’re not getting all of the catches, they’re making the Tik Toks and they’re having fun on their social media.”
Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster created something of a brouhaha last season with pregame dances posted to social media that included him dancing on opponent logos. When the Steelers began to lose games after a 11-0 start, some opponents expressed angst over the dances, noted the motivation derived from them and/or satisfaction over beating Smith-Schuster after he performed them.
Smith-Schuster, who eventually stopped the pregame dances, and Villanueva were teammates for four seasons with the Steelers. Coincidentally, Smith-Schuster was reported to have also been offered a contract by the Ravens in March, but he ultimately returned to the Steelers for $8 million.